The Japanese are great smokers (both in number and quality). I think I have found the iconic Japanese smoker though, Machiko Kyo – in her role as slightly long in the tooth actress in Ozu’s Floating Weeds. The film looks oddly anachronistic now – we are told early on that it is set in 1957 but this tale of itinerant players in a small town looks preserved in historical Japanese aspic. Only small hints bring us back to 1950’s Japan (itself a place of much turmoil) and the rampant smoking is one of them.

Kyo as Sumiko is the champeen smoker in this film, particularly for the way she disposes of her butts (a flick of the wrist sends it unerringly into whatever tin or box she has decided to use as an ashtray at the time). The defining moment though here is halfway through the film when her machinations have been discovered and she has been physically abused and sent packing by the Master of the troupe. She settles into the bar seat, orders a sake – hot as you can – then ruefully pats the fag out and takes it in her mouth. Taking a match from the box she lights it in one deft move, sending the dud match back into the box without looking. Two long drags tells us all we need to know about recovery from despair. She maybe at her lowest ebb – but she still does cool.